In the wake of the Fort Hood shootings, questions are already being asked about whether Major Hassan’s rampage is related to his religion. Today the New York Times published a thoughtful piece on the difficult role of Muslims in the US military.

November 9, 2009
Complications Grow for Muslims Serving Nation

Abdi Akgun joined the Marines in August of 2000, fresh out of high school and eager to serve his country. As a Muslim, the attacks of Sept. 11 only steeled his resolve to fight terrorism.

But two years later, when Mr. Akgun was deployed to Iraq with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the thought of confronting Muslims in battle gave him pause.

He was haunted by the possibility that he might end up killing innocent civilians.

“It’s kind of like the Civil War, where brothers fought each other across the Mason-Dixon line,” Mr. Akgun, 28, of Lindenhurst, N.Y., who returned from Iraq without ever pulling the trigger. “I don’t want to stain my faith, I don’t want to stain my fellow Muslims, and I also don’t want to stain my country’s flag.”

Read the whole piece here. Other NYT coverage of the Fort Hood shootings included this story about how Hasan may have been giving signals of tension and frustration, possibly linked to harrassment he experienced in the military, before the shooting.

0 Responses

  1. Definitely a thought-provoking and interesting piece. There were two quotes that I thought were very important:

    “Our diversity, not only in our Army but in our country, is a strength,” General Casey said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”

    I've been reading a lot about multiculturalism and cultural appropriation. I think that General Casey is right that diversity is important in (North) America, there are many places in the world that are not diverse. In the article it says how the military wanted to recruit Muslim and ME Americans as they would benefit from understanding the culture more- it makes me sad to see that these recruits did not receive respect and trust from their colleagues.

    The other quote:

    “It gets to you sometimes,” said Mr. Khan, 32, from Queens, who is of Pakistani descent. “But the more personally you take things, the more you’re going to have a hard time surviving.”

    I think that's generally true of anyone about anything and more people could stand to not take things personally. It's one of the concepts in the book The Four Agreements (which I recently heard about at a graduation ceremony, and would now like to read).

  2. Looking forward to hearing more about the Four Agreements book. From what I recall of my cultural theory, appropriation is a dominant culture taking possession of a minority's modes of expression, art forms, etc. It's essentially an imperialistic act. In the military we speak of assimilation (the need of members to conform themselves to the military ethos) while we also speak of accomodation (the need of the military to allow members of component groups) to be true to their cultural and religious identity where such accomodation can reasonably meet given the demands of the military.
    From what has been coming out in the last few days about the Fort Hood shootings, I think we may need to ask if certain religious expressions (specifically Hassan's alleged sympathies for global and radical Islam) allow such a person to still have a place in his or her country's military. There are some hard questions ahead. Tom Ricks asked some of those questions on his blog the other day: